Feeling grateful when your spouse has cancer sounds like an oxymoron. But once you truly understand the power of gratitude, it doesn’t feel so contradictory. Instead, it begins to feel like the one thing that will keep you strong, resilient, and hopeful on this journey.
Feeling Sorry For Yourself When Your Spouse Has Cancer
For the past month, I have had chronic back pain. Not so bad that it was debilitating, but bad enough that I was having trouble sleeping and would wake up groggy and irritable. I found myself feeling grumpy and complaining a lot. I kept thinking: Why can’t I just feel good for a while?
When your spouse has cancer, you may find yourself asking similar questions:
- Why can’t my husband just feel better?
- Why can’t we just get an ounce of good news?
- Why can’t we have one day when nothing goes wrong?
It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself. After all, you didn’t ask for any of this, and it doesn’t feel fair.
Negative Thinking On Default When Your Spouse Has Cancer
As humans, our default thinking is negative. We’re actually wired to have a negative bias, which used to serve humans well in primitive times when environmental threats were apparent. Now, it’s not so helpful because it means our default is to find what is wrong with ourselves, our spouse, our job, our lives–the list goes on. It’s even easier to fall into a negative loop when you’re dealing with the extra stress of your spouse’s cancer.
Forgetting Your Pain When Your Spouse Has Cancer
As I was driving to a meeting, feeling exhausted, achy, and generally sorry for myself, I looked around and noticed the gorgeous trees in full spring bloom. How beautiful they looked! Everything looked lush and had turned an intense green from all the winter rain. I felt gratitude and genuine appreciation for the beautiful place where I live. As I sat there noticing the beauty around me, I forgot my aching back for a few moments. My mood lifted, and I felt lighter than I had for a while.
Gratitude has an amazing ability to lift us out of self-pity and negativity. It can even lessen our pain because it directs our focus away from it. Gratitude, like every emotion, is generated by our thoughts, which means it is available to feel at any time. Yes–you can even feel grateful and experience the power of gratitude when your spouse has cancer.
So why don’t we feel gratitude more often? The answer is simply because it takes work. Our brains naturally tend to notice the negative. That is how it tries to keep us safe. It is the default setting for most of us. Gratitude, on the other hand, takes some effort. But the payoff is huge!
The Power of Gratitude When Your Spouse Has Cancer
A small moment of gratitude for nature instantly made me feel better physically and mentally when I was dealing with discomfort in my back. In the same way, choosing to focus on things in life you have to be grateful for can help reduce the overwhelm, anxiety, stress, and fear you feel because your spouse has cancer.
Gratitude doesn’t change the fact that your husband is sick or that you’re worried about the future or that you’re exhausted from being a spousal caregiver. But it does make your experience–your reality–a little lighter. And when your spouse has cancer, anything that can make you feel even an ounce better is worth it.
How to Experience the Power of Gratitude Daily
No matter how down or dark you may feel, you can always find something to appreciate and be grateful for–you might just have to look a little deeper some days, and that’s okay. Try this:
- Every morning, write or say out loud one thing you are grateful for. Just ONE thing. It can be as simple as being grateful for nice weather, your kids, or another day with your spouse.
- Every night, write or say out loud one thing you are grateful for. Again, you just need to find ONE thing. It can even be the same thing you were grateful for in the morning!
The process of intentionally choosing gratitude daily will slowly but surely begin to transform your thoughts. Where you once found yourself constantly focusing on the negative, you’ll start to see the beauty among the challenging things in life.
Gratitude is the Beginning of Building Resilience on Your Journey
Although being a caregiver for your spouse with cancer can be a difficult and emotionally challenging journey, adopting an attitude of gratitude can help to build internal resilience in responding to stress.
As a caregiver for you when your spouse has cancer, I help clients build the mental resilience, emotional capacity, and caregiver skills required to navigate the cancer journey. If you’re ready to ditch the negative mind chatter that feels like it’s taking control of your life, gratitude is a great place to start. Working with a caregiver coach can also be a significant way to find the support, accountability, and tools you need to regain control of your life.
Do you want to learn more about working with a caregiver coach for you when your spouse has cancer? Schedule a free 1-hour coaching call with me today!